In today’s mobile society, millions of Americans take on the role of caregiver coordinating an elderly loved ones financial, social and healthcare needs from afar. It can be difficult to ascertain how a loved one is really managing, and most won’t admit that they need help. The holidays provide a time to reconnect with loved ones that aren’t seen on a regular basis and also provides a wonderful opportunity to check on their well-being and overall health.
If you are visiting with an elderly loved one this holiday season, here are some discreet ways to assess their condition.
- Give Them A Hug. Pay attention to little details. Do they smell clean? Are their clothes dirty? Is their hair dirty? Is there weight loss? Are they steady on their feet? A change in hygiene could signal physical impairment or memory loss. Weight loss could mean a loss in physical ability to cook or that the person is forgetting to eat. Difficulty with mobility could lead to falls, injury or a host of other problems.
- Ask Them About Their Friends. Talk to them about their social life and actively listen to responses. Are they still involved with their friends and social groups? Can they recall names of friends and familiar places? Are they repeating the same facts or story several times? Do they suddenly have new friends in their life that have socially isolated them from others? Simple conversations can reveal signs of memory loss, social isolation, fraud and exploitation by others.
- Go for a Short Drive If your loved one is still driving, take a quick trip to the store and have them drive. Take a quick glance at the car. Are there any dents, dings or signs of an accident? Look at the garage or carport and note any signs of damage. Observe the use of a seatbelt and if any lights or warnings are on in the dashboard. While driving, does your loved one drive below the speed limit, tailgate, or confuse the brake and gas pedal? If safety concerns are apparent, it may be time to seek alternate means of transportation.
- Act Like A Busybody Casually snoop. Are there piles of unopened mail? Are there piles of opened bills or collection notices? Is there clutter in the home that could be tripped over? How do the plants and the pets look? Are there signs that they are not being taken care of? Is there expired food in the pantry or expired medication in the bathroom? Check the microwave and stove for signs of charring or burns. These signs could mean that physical or cognitive changes have occurred, or it could mean that your loved one just needs a little more help around the house.
- Grab a Snack Take a quick peak in the refrigerator. Is it clean? Is there an odor? Is the refrigerator stocked with fresh and nutritious food? Check the expiration dates and look for signs of mold. Poor nutrition can lead to many health problems including memory loss. An empty or dirty refrigerator could mean forgetting to shop for food or difficulty with cleaning.
If your visit leads to concerns with your loved one’s health, safety or well-being, it important to gently broach the topic with them. Allow them to make as many decisions about their care as they are able to. You may encounter resistance, but you can remind your loved one that your goal is to provide medical, legal and financial resources that will help them to remain independent and safe in their own home for as long as possible.
It is important not to overlook the legal aspect of your loved ones’ care. There are vital documents that should be obtained to ensure you can access your loved one’s medical information, make medical and financial decisions if they become incapacitated, and administer their estate.
Taking these steps now can prepare you for any future decline that your loved one may experience and give you added peace of mind as you return home after the holidays.
If you have some concerns regarding recent changes in your elderly loved one, please contact us today.